COP26 and The UK’s Drive to Net Zero Transportation

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Published: 28th September 2021
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COP26: Net Zero Transportation

The UK hosts the UN Climate change conference this November in Glasgow. The decarbonisation of transport is key if the UK wishes to achieve the net carbon target date of 2050. The roadmap in regard to transportation has two key dates of 2030 and 2035. New petrol and diesel vehicles cannot be sold after 2030 and after 2035 all new vehicles must be net zero. Hence one of the key points for discussion and scrutiny in November will be the Government’s plan for the decarbonisation of transport. Published in July following months of delays, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan outlines the Government’s approach, in terms of timings and technologies, to decarbonising the UK’s highest-emitting sector. It covers all domestic forms of transport including road, rail, shipping and flights. 

The plan has been met with encouragement by many within the green economy, meaning those involved with the manufacture, sale and leasing of cars, light commercial and heavy goods vehicles.  Added to this is the new and emerging support network, such as charging networks and battery factories, known as Gigafactories such as BritishVolt. With COP26 on the horizon and the recent IPCC climate report detailing the effect of greenhouse cases on the world’s temperatures, this plan could not come soon enough in many peoples’ view. 

UK citizens are demanding that their cities towns and transportation systems create a cleaner, safer and indeed quieter environment to live in. Hence the plan seeks to deliver a rapid improvement in terms of the reduction of air and noise pollution. 

In essence the weighty plan fleshes out the high level ‘White Paper’ published in 2020.  Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has heralded the new Plan as “just the start”, and each mode of transportation can be expected to decarbonise in different way. 

What needs to happen?

Government has a vital role to play in setting the regulatory and governance frameworks needed to ensure the country meets its targets and obligations but it is up to the markets to innovate and drive technology to meet those. 

In terms of transportation 55% of emissions are caused by cars, 16% by light commercial vehicles such as delivery vans and 16% by heavy goods vehicles 

Plans not bans! 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has repeatedly called for increased consultation and dialogue with government. They have a valid point, consultation around charging structures, access to the grid and most importantly, which the paper does not address is the ability of power stations to supply the electricity needed. 

With the electrification of buses we can see that one bus can reduce up to 75 cars accessing the city and now bus fleets are also being powered by low carbon hydrogen which is an excellent source of clean energy helping combat climate change and poor air quality. Fleets of hydrogen buses have been running on lengthy trials in many of the UK busiest cities.   Other technologies are being developed too, at great speed such as reengineering internal combustion engines to run on biofuels.  The Tees Valley Hydrogen Transport team, for example, is making great advances in regard to the expanded use of hydrogen. 

However the SMMT believes that 46% of all UK vehicles will in any event, be net zero by 2035 without the need for bans.   

The three steps envisaged in the plan are;  

  • A modal shift to public transport that will be net zero in our towns and cities.  
  • The decarbonisation of road transport as a priority and the changes in the delivery of goods, with more use of rail powered by electricity and hydrogen.  
  • An increase in EV vehicle and last mile delivery methods. 

Now, more than ever, is the time for active collaboration between transport, green technologies and energy professionals to drive the decarbonisation of our transport systems which account for 27% of all UK emissions. 

What are the legal requirements?

There are a raft of legal considerations that require immediate attention from planning, policy changes, construction and use regulations, protection and training of employees in a high voltage environment, consumer protection, sufficient and appropriate research and development, safeguarding of consumers in relation to the sale of imported goods, fair contract terms and our legal relationships with the EU and the rest of the world. 

Our teams are working with some of the most innovative players in the market and the future narrative is in the development of a greener environment – contact Eddie Flanagan or Mark Bartholomew in our green transport team.   

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Eddie works with a highly skilled team to deliver industry specific advice to the asset finance and leasing sector.

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